by Sasha Reddy
You can get a pretty good gist of what to expect from this group fitness offering just from the name. Bike 2 Mat takes you from a 30-minute brisk, invigorating cycle session into a sweaty, soulful heated yoga practice. But it also offers an unexpected dynamic of movement, excitement, and reflection, balancing two completely opposite flavors in one refreshing serving. Moreover, the class has a unique genealogy. Bike 2 Mat has been taught by many instructors over the years, from long-time group fitness instructor Bridget Filipowski to even longer-time instructor Jamie Cheney, two halves of one fit mother-daughter duo.
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far
Fitness has been Jamie Cheney’s bread and butter her whole life. “I started out in fitness because I would go and teach the class at 6:00 am, and my husband would stay home with the kids, and then I’d come home, and he’d go to work…” she says. Once the kids were older, she took a full-time position as the fitness coordinator at a spa and wellness center in North Carolina, where she lived for 12 years. In that job, Jamie wore many hats – she opened the gym most mornings, taught classes at the crack of dawn, then rolled right into back-to-back personal training sessions.
In 2005, Jamie’s husband was transferred to Pennsylvania. While the move sadly put distance between them and their daughter, Hope, it brought them much closer to their other three children – Bridget, Kristi, and Duke – and seven grandkids. “I left North Carolina being a wellness coordinator, being a personal trainer, eating very rigid, very clean,” Jamie smirks, “and I moved here where my kids are. And it was birthday parties and ‘Let’s go out to lunch.’ So, I said, ‘Okay, we have to join a gym.'”
“My mom has always been into fitness all through my years of growing up,” Bridget says, “and it is only fitting I would follow in her footsteps.”
In addition to teaching at the YMCA, Bridget joined the HAC instructor pool in 2010, followed by Jamie in 2012. Around that time, the Bike 2 Mat class was born.
“I loved teaching Bike 2 Mat for many reasons,” says Bridget. “The class drew a different group of members than your typical spin class does. Not good or bad, just different.” In Bridget’s experience, Bike 2 Mat appeals to many participants because it’s the perfect compromise for people looking for a short-format cycling class and yogis looking to broaden their horizons. “My mom’s style is very different than mine. She is an outdoor cyclist, so much of her rides are geared towards what you would experience on the road. I am not an outdoor cyclist, so mine are just a little different.”
In the past, each Bike 2 Mat class has been taught by two instructors – one for cycling, one for mat. Jamie and Bridget were among many instructors that rotated in; these days, Jamie’s running the show on her own for the most part. Funny enough, she’d never taught a yoga class before Bike 2 Mat and found the heat from the studio difficult to work with at first. “But you get to where you love it,” she says. “Now I’m 200, 300, 400 hours in my yoga certification. And I love it; it’s my favorite class.”
Though Bridget no longer teaches the Bike 2 Mat class, she still teaches cycling classes every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday morning. “Everyone loves Bridget,” Jamie smiles. “She’s so amazing. She’s just funny and vivacious, and she’s been that way since the time she was born. It’s just the way she was hatched.”
The HAC Difference
In her 42-year career, Jamie has met many lovely people and truly cherished all the roles she’s filled. But that love hasn’t come without ups and downs, especially later in her working life. “When you are older, and you’re in a realm of fitness that’s mostly young people, there’s some intimidation to tread through,” she admits. At various times and places in her career, Jamie has felt singled out or quickly judged for being the “old lady” in the room, even in her own fitness classes. But the atmosphere at HAC has been different.
“I have a bike group that I ride with, and they’re all the time asking me, ‘Well, what is it you love so much about HAC?’ And that’s what I always tell them: ‘You know, they’re just a group of wonderful people. They’re just great, accepting people.’ You don’t always find that.”
And Jamie strives to be as welcoming to new participants as the members she’s encountered have been to her. “I am very good – and Bridget is very good, too – about setting people up on their bikes,” she says. One of Jamie’s strong suits is helping new participants overcome the usual stumbling blocks like not knowing how to adjust the seat height or change the gear. “It’s intimidating, no question about it…If the person comes in and they’re uncomfortable, they may not come back.”
Jamie introduces herself when someone new comes to class, confirms whether they’ve taken a cycle class before, and helps them get set up, if necessary. “I’ll say to them, ‘Do what you want to do. Do your own thing. Enjoy the music. It’s your class.’ They’ll either come back or they won’t.”
What to Expect
The first time I ever took Bike 2 Mat (or any cycling class) was in preparation for this article. The experience was very beginner friendly. True to form, Jamie was quick to help me get my bike adjusted beforehand. She took particular care to explain the gears and find a good max gear setting for me. The cycling portion was set to familiar tunes of summer in the 80s, a great vibe for a great class.
“The [cycling] class has a Sprint-like format,” Jamie says. “So, it’s still that format of 20 seconds of hard work, 20 seconds off.” Throughout the first half of the workout, Jamie mixes in motivating chants to “give it all you’ve got” with the reassurance and understanding that everyone must move at their individual pace. With the final sprint of the class, everyone counted down the seconds like it was New Year’s Eve, followed by cheers and applause as we came in for a landing. Then, we all wiped down our bikes and snagged our mats.
“We always start the yoga class with a quote that is hopefully meaningful to better your life,” Jamie says. She puts a lot of effort into picking a phrase and crafting a thought-provoking, actionable message. During my class, the quote was “carpe diem”, or “seize the day”. Jamie challenged us to approach each day with intention, whether that means making strides toward a grandiose goal or doing just a little of whatever makes your heart sing. The quote was sprinkled throughout the practice, too – with each reaching pose, as hands extended toward the sky, Jamie playfully (and pun-fully) reminded us to seize the day.
“From a cycling class, your hamstrings and your muscles are all jammed up,” Jamie says. “So, your yoga class is there to release that, not necessarily to add strength. It’s more to release and relax.” Still, while the mat portion of Bike 2 Mat is considered a gentle practice, after a sweaty cycling class, I found it admittedly challenging to hold a simple three-legged dog without face-planting into the mat.
The opening quote is repeated at the end of the class as everyone winds down into a relaxing savasana. The final five minutes are accented with a little sound bath incorporating a singing bowl, rainmaker, and bells. “It is a little journey,” Jamie smiles. “Actually, sometimes people cry.” She sees this time not as a one-way address from her to her class but as a joint soul-sharing session.
Though Jamie is approaching a point in her life when she’s strongly considering retirement, the joy her classes bring has kept her coming back. “Sometimes I think about getting out,” she says, “and then I’ll just have an awesome day.” Teaching, building and improving relationships, and giving something back to the people she’s met really lights her soul on fire. And she’s eager to continue meeting new faces through Bike 2 Mat and all her classes. She hopes (as much as I do) that more folks will stop by for an energizing, inspiring hour they won’t regret. Just one class is all that’s needed – you’ll be coming back again.
Choose from three weekly Bike 2 Mat classes:
Wednesdays, 8:00 – 9:05 am
Wednesdays, 5:30 – 6:40 pm
Fridays, 8:00 – 9:05 am